Mac Tallo: Rekindling His Basketball Passion Through Chooks-to-Go 3×3

Cebuano legend Mac Tallo sat down with Dribble Media’s ZerJosh Serrano to talk about his disappearance from the PBA landscape, along with the inside story on how he was named to the Chooks-to-Go 3×3 team.

Mac Tallo rekindles passion for basketball through Chooks-to-Go 3x3

“Alam niyo ba na noong first year ko sa high school nagtry-out ako sa limang schools. Yung limang teams na yun walang kumuha sa akin.”

-Mac

Mac Tallo was one of the most talented high school prospects in Filipino basketball history. Hailing from Cebu, Mac’s name already reached Manila even before he got there in 2011. That was how hyped-up his name was as an up-and-coming college star.

But Mac had to earn every drop of fame and popularity that came his way. When he was still starting out as a high school prospect, he admitted that he was fortunate that the Cebu Institute of Technology, the sixth school he tried out for, gave him an opportunity to showcase his skills.

So how did Mac repay the trust that CIT had for him?

BY WINNING. Simple as that.

“Before ako dumating sa CIT, 0-10 yung standing nila. That was in 2008. Then unang year ko sa kanila, nadala ko yung team sa Semifinals. That was the first time in their school history. Then the following year, doon na kami nag-champion.”

-Mac

Mac’s basketball career didn’t start when he first stepped into high school. It started years and years before that.

Growing up, he always had the guidance of his father right from the very start. Not everyone knows this, but his father, Mark Tallo, once played in the PBA by donning the Pepsi uniform. Having a PBA player as your father will always come with an added pressure, but Mac knows that Mark always wanted what’s best for his son.

“Growing up, knowing na former PBA player ang dad ko, may konting pressure. Bata pa ako noon kaya lahat ng decisions niya, kailangan ko sundin. Malaking pressure kasi kailangan ko gawin lahat. Mas experienced siya kaya sumusunod lang ako. Pero alam ko na he wanted what’s best for me. Yung mga advice ng dad ko ang nagiging motivation ko rin sa paglalaro ng basketball.”

-Mac
Mac with his father Mark during the 2017 PBA Draft
Mac with his father Mark during the 2017 PBA Draft

Even during Mac’s high school stint for CIT in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (CESAFI), his father already had lofty plans set for his son. Their strategy was for Mac to dominate his competition in Cebu so that his name will be made known in all four corners of the country.

That plan worked. The storied Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles came calling, and Mac was soon headed to the nation’s capital in 2011.

“Sa umpisa pa lang, lumipat na kayo ng Manila.”

There’s no doubt that Mac was also one of the greatest what-ifs in UAAP history. After his illustrious juniors career in CESAFI, Mac took his talents to the UAAP to don the blue-and-white threads of Ateneo.

Mac joined a powerhouse Ateneo squad that already had nationally-ranked prospects like Kiefer Ravena, Greg Slaughter, Gwyne Capacio, Justin Chua and Nico Salva on their roster. A championship was already on the horizon, and it’s just a matter of time before this extremely-talented Blue Eagles reach their destination.

Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter led the core of the 2011 Ateneo team (Photo via Philippine Daily Inquirer))
Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter led the core of the 2011 Ateneo team (Photo via Philippine Daily Inquirer))

But things didn’t work out as Mac never got used to the system that then-Ateneo head coach Norman Black had integrated. Mac then left Katipunan to transfer to Taft, where he played only a few games for the De La Salle University Green Archers before calling it quits in Manila. He went back home to Cebu soon after.

If Mac had to name one regret in his career, it would be that he didn’t go to Manila sooner than he did in the past. That’s why his advice for aspiring basketball players in the province is to come to Manila at an early age, acquire experience in the countless tournaments here, and get used to a system-based type of basketball.

“Naging comfort zone ko na yung nasa Cebu ako. Ang mentality ko noon ay kahit sinong kalaban ko sa Cebu, alam kong kaya ko. Kaya noong pagdating ko sa Manila, panibagong system na at panibagong ambiance. Hindi na pwede yung style ko na bara-bara lang kaya natinag yung kumpiyansa ko. Kaya ngayon gusto ko sana na yung mga players from Cebu, magsimula na sila sa Manila habang maaga pa. Dito sa Manila, sobrang daming liga. Magiging mas fit na sayo yung gameplay at malalaman mo na yung style ng coaches. Magiging comfort zone mo kaagad.”

-Mac

Playing for Coach Yeng Guiao in the PBA

Mac had to endure a road of many ups and downs, but he eventually achieved his dream of playing in the PBA. He suited up for the NLEX Road Warriors, and played for Yeng Guiao, who as we all know, is one of the most polarizing figures in Philippine basketball.

Fans would always see the fiery side of Coach Yeng during games, but he is the exact opposite during NLEX’s practices. Mac revealed that Coach Yeng is very lenient in practice, but players should not mistake that for a weakness. Coach Yeng knows everything that each player is doing in practice.

“Actually, madali lang mga practice namin sa NLEX. Hindi siya (Coach Yeng) mahigpit sa practice. It’s up to you kung magpapakundisyon ka pa pagkatapos or mag-eextra work. Yung practice nga namin nagtatawanan lang kami at nagkukuwentuhan kahit habang nandiyan si Coach sa harap. Never siyang kikibo sayo ni isang beses. Kahit magkamali-mali ka pa sa plays, hindi ka niya sisitahin. Pero tatandaan niya yan. Pagdating sa mismong game, doon niya ibubuhos lahat. Sasabihin niya na ‘Ayan kasi patawa-tawa ka lang sa practice eh.’”

-Mac
Coach Yeng Guiao and the NLEX Road Warriors
Coach Yeng gives pointers to Mac and the rest of the NLEX Road Warriors

Coach Yeng has undoubtedly established himself as one of the most successful coaches in PBA history. He has also built a reputation of not holding back some choice words for the referees and also to his players.

But Mac says that it’s just his way of motivating his players. Coach Yeng is as fair as a coach can be in terms of handling his team.

“Actually kahit yung mga star players namin gaya ni Kiefer (Ravena), Kevin (Alas) and JR (Quinahan), minumura yan ni Coach Yeng. As in sobrang lutong na mura. Pero ginigising ka lang niya. Ganoon talaga siya mag-coach. Ang isa pang gusto ko kay Coach Yeng ay kung bangko ka last game, pagdating ng next game ready ka lang kasi nasa first five ka na. Gagamitin ka talaga. Walang bangko na player kay Coach Yeng. Binibigyan ka niya ng value. Pipigain at pipigain ka niya hanggang sa may lumabas sayo kaya doon pa lang, tataas na kumpiyansa mo. Sa totoo lang, kay Coach Yeng talaga lumabas yung tunay na laro ko.”

-Mac

So why is Mac not in the PBA anymore?

With NLEX reeling from the suspension of Kiefer Ravena and the ACL injury of Kevin Alas, the team turned to its less-heralded backcourt stalwarts. Mac was given a consistent spot in Coach Yeng’s rotation, and he surely made the most out of it. It was a display of an all-around brilliance for the Cebuano guard, and it seemed like he was finally living up to his potential.

Yet, Mac is not in the PBA anymore. Mac revealed two reasons why he thinks his PBA career spiralled downward.

“Sa kahit anong liga at sa kahit sinong player, dumadating talaga na yung isang laro mo na nakakapag-tanggal ng kumpiyansa mo. May isang bad game ako na hindi ko na-handle nang maayos. Instead na bumawi ako, mas lalong bumaba laro ko. Kaya advice ko sa mga players na pag may bad game kayo, huwag niyo masyadong dibdibin. Sa next game, may ibang result na yan. Second reason naman ay noong narating ko na yung highest point ng career ko, nag-relax na ko. Hindi na ako nag-eextra work. Akala ko kayang-kaya ko na ang PBA. Doon na nagsimula bumaba ang laro ko tapos sakto na pabalik na noon si Kiefer from suspension at si Kevin from the injury. Nabalitaan ko pa na si Jericho (Cruz) papunta na din sa NLEX. Ka-posisyon ko yun lahat kaya lalo lang ako na-discouraged. Sobrang regretful ng lahat ng nangyari noon paalis na ako sa PBA. I hope na kung sino man ang makabasa ng article ko, please learn from it. Handle everything well.”

-Mac

Inside story on how Mac got into the Chooks-to-Go 3x3 line-up

Mac with Coach Aldin Ayo and the rest of the Chooks-to-Go 3x3 squad
Mac with Coach Aldin Ayo and the rest of the Chooks-to-Go 3x3 squad

After his abrupt disappearance from the PBA landscape, Mac played in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL). But Mac quickly regained national attention when he was named to the Chooks-to-Go 3×3 squad that participated in the 2021 FIBA 3X3 World Tour Doha Masters.

How exactly did Mac get into the 3×3 game? Mac says that he was playing in private basketball runs last December when he realized that Coach Aldin Ayo was watching the games. Coach Aldin, one of the most successful collegiate coaches in the past decade, was tasked to lead the Chooks-to-Go 3×3 team.

It was purely God’s plan, Mac says. The 3×3 team was on the last day of their practice that month when it came to happen that Mac’s private run games were held on the same venue.

“Noong December 2020, sumasali ako sa mga private runs. Mga papawis lang. One time, may game before us na mga college players. Sakto nanunuod si Coach Aldin (Ayo) pero that time hindi pa niya ako kilala. Si Coach kasi hindi naniniwala hangga’t hindi niya nakikita. So during that time na manunuod siya, sabi ko sa mga teammates ko na manunuod si Coach Aldin, magpapakita ako. Huwag niyo ako palitan. Maganda naman pinakita ko, lalo sa passing and shooting. Then around 11PM or 12AM that same night, nag-text si Coach sa akin na mag-tryout ako sa Chooks kinabukasan. One-day try-out lang ‘yun. So nag-practice ako and kasama ko si Marvin Hayes at si John Wilson sa try-out. Syempre ibinuhos ko na lahat kahit naiisip ko na baka mag-cramps ako kinabukasan. After the try-out, sabi ni Coach Aldin na magpakundisyon ako. Sabi niya overweight ako para sa height ko. Then December 26, doon na nila sinabi na ako yung kinuha nila for the roster. Sabi ko talaga sa sarili ko na magpapa-kundisyon na ako. Ibibigay ko na lahat. Nag-diet ako at nag-training everyday hanggang sa pumayat ako ng 15 kilos. Actually, this is the first time in my career na nasa kundisyon talaga ako.”

-Mac

Now that he is quickly regaining attention and fame as a 3×3 player, is a return to the PBA still part of Mac’s future?

“Actually, mas na-eenjoy ko ang laro sa 3x3. Kung tutuusin, international level na players agad yung makakalaban mo. This is for my growth and experience talaga. For now, wala pa ako plans na bumalik sa PBA. Matagal-tagal ko din kasi makakasama ang Chooks. Mag-focus muna ako sa 3x3 kasi goal ko na i-publish ang pangalan ko sa FIBA. Gusto ko maging isa sa mga top players. Individually, gusto ko makapasok sa Top 20 3x3 players ng FIBA.”

-Mac

As for his advice to young basketball aspirants out there, Mac says that your commitment to the sport will be the biggest factor in your potential success.

Bet on yourself, Mac says.

“Kung gusto niyo talaga ang basketball, devote all your time in doing it. Kung yun talaga ang gusto niyo gawin, don’t be tempted pa na gawin ang ibang bagay. Be committed to the sport, yun ang mahalaga.”

-Mac

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